Checking in with Applelines

    Mar 26, 2011

    The following post was written by Hugh Brooks of the Navanti Group who wanted to share his experience with the new checkin features for Ushahdi and Crowdmap. He and his colleague Ravi Gupta used checkins for their Applelines project.

    Our first Crowdmap was, a citizen reporting deployment for all things local in Washington, DC Georgetown area. One of the categories we added was for reports on the Georgetown Cupcake lines, which we thought were a little extreme at times, it could also come in handy for locals wanting to pop in and get cupcakes for work or events and not have to deal with tourists. With the Launch of the iPad 2, a number of people in our office were considering buying them, but given the chaos surrounding Apple releases, we were trying to come up with a system to circumvent or report on lines and stocks etc. to try and either avoid them altogether or strategize a reasonable time for waiting in line to buy the iPad 2. We initially settled on doing a public trial run for the iPad 2 release in order to have the system perfected for the upcoming iPhone 5 release. We decided at first to do a standard Crowdmap, with online reporting and Twitter hashtag #applelines but soon realized the check-in feature would be a quick and easy fit for this kind of reporting. Especially given the fact that most people who are waiting in line for an iPad 2 would likely have an iPhone or other smart phone. The day of the launch we got the most amount of traffic, and had a couple solid reports on the activity at the Georgetown Apple store. The following days, as Apple released more product, people were still in line so we decided that the first person on our team passing by could post a check-in with information about the lines so others could avoid going, or get in the line depending on availability. For a trial run, it's been mostly friends and colleagues that are checking-in and viewing the reports, and it’s been a good exercise in practicing a deployment - working out flaws and strategizing on how to drive more people to the map. We hope to develop and perfect the system as well as draw in more people around the country willing to report for their own cities for the release of the iPhone 5 and subsequent Apple product releases. We really like the quick and easy check-in format, but having both the standard Ushahidi/Crowdmap web interface instead of only the check-in interface would allow for us to do a few things better such as:

    Categorize products and stores a little better, such as those wanting to report on a BestBuy or AT&T store, or those wanting to go directly to Apple stores.

    Interface easier with the data as an online viewer, such as seeing when peak times and days are.

    Report on specific products and stores to strategize.

    Additionally, we could have those without smart phones report via text.

    Have people tweet reports to the map while in line if they don’t have the mobile app.

    The ability to upload more than one picture, or short video.

    Perhaps only a Twitter feed integration, making some reporting real-time, or quick updates to track on the map-site, Smartphone, or allow for quick updates.

    So far the Check-in feature has gotten us off to a good start, and other than one photo uploading fail, we had no bugs or issues to report. The feature has saved more than a few friends the time and effort of having to travel or call the store, only to find the model they wanted was not the one Apple got in that day. We’re going to keep Applelines going as long as the lines are forming outside stores waiting for shipments, and we'll be getting a few more volunteers to check-in as they pass stores in their area. We’ve already come up with a number of other ideas for check-in deployments, both private and public to make coordination of activities and people easier. We look forward to testing it out more in the future.